by Ryland Walker Knight
My summer travels are long gone, crowding the rearview like a bus. I'm back in San Francisco, working, writing, slowly piecing together some more moving images. Not as much fun as galavanting around Europe. But not awful. Truth is, I have a good life. In fact, I missed it quite a bit while I was gone. I did not miss writing the viewing log, but I know of at least one friend (and a certain mom) who did miss reading them/me. So I think I'll start it up again. That said, I've been reading more than watching movies. But I still watch movies. In fact, there's a number I should watch sooner than later. But there's also a ton I won't fret pushing down the line. Especially during a stretch like this when the US Open's going (starting and stopping and starting as it has) and there's all kinds of drama right there along those baselines (not to mention the weather report). But I'll stop boring you with this intro that's only yet another stalling tactic. The important thing is that I cannot recall all I watched since Cannes so I'm starting over since the beginning of this month. So, working backwards as ever, let's count from ten down to zero.
- The Mechanic [Simon West, 2011] West is a pretty lousy action director, forever chopping up things in useless/pointless ways that are obnoxious in their advertising gleam more than any spatial misrepresentation. He gets space fine, as some killings make perfect sense in living room geometry, but he's bad with bodies. Too often we see a body as one limb or another and only for a second. It's not surprising that the big stunt (the fall off the building) is the only time you see Jason Statham and Ben Foster's whole bodies moving through a space; it's annoying that the shots are so fisheyed and seesawing between their perspectives, but props for shooting the fall as their POVs; it's a good stunt, sure, but it's so clearly staged that any verve you get from seeing these dudes do their own stunt is lost in a fit of sped-up frame rates shot on super fast film stock. And yet, these guys are, as the saying goes, "compulsively watchable." I like seeing Statham clench his jaw and shoot guns. I'm looking forward to another Expendables installment. And I like Ben Foster's ability to project hurt in his angry way through roles. I'll always watch him play a psycho.
- How Do You Know [James L. Brooks, 2010] # Flipped over during the rain delay in the Fed-Tsonga match. The scene with the newborn and the proposal is unbeatable. Lenny Venito is the man.
- Bridesmaids [Paul Feig, 2011] # Went to the Castro, which was packed with single ladies and gay boys in pairs and quartets all over the auditorium, and had a blast. It definitely tapers, but it is so fun with an audience. More on Wiig and McCarthy soon.
- War of the Worlds [Steve, 2005] # This is how you make action scenes. The first 70 minutes of this movie are maybe flawless. Or, those contain some truly/typical visionary stuff from good old Steve. Why does nobody talk about how great his master shots are? Because even simple one-take shots/scenes are awesome, like after the lightning when Tom goes through the living room, flipping the light switch and trying the cell phone and tapping his stopped-dead watch, all handheld without shakes and without a cut. Every camera movement is justified in a Spielberg set piece. It's crazy how rigorous and off-handed he can be. Too bad so much of this one stinks.
- Louie "Niece" [Louis CK, 2011] # Hard to follow the Afghanistan episode, so it kind of makes sense to go all serious in this one. Yet another stranger teaching Louie-Louis how he's gotta go with the world, and be in it, instead of only approaching it from outside. But this one was a deep cut since it revolves around a young girl getting abandoned. Still, loving this season. Duh.
- Monkey Business [Howard Hawks, 1952] # Rivette said it better but this movie's interest in where we place intelligence is basically a punchline to the entire search for the bone that is the movie we saw just before...
- Bringing Up Baby [Howard Hawks, 1938] # ...which is just about as good as it gets in terms of zany, fast-as-a-nail-gun screwball ping ponging of plot and characters. Plus all that Cavell stuff. I've said it before. Look it up.
- Curb Your Enthusiasm "Car Periscope" [David Mandel, 2011] Not quite as laugh out loud funny for me as the prior week's "Bi Sexual" but still pretty great. This season definitely seems more bound up in the clever concepts Larry's dreamt up rather than an arc as the last two seasons showed. Basically I want as much Leon as I can get and I'm barely getting any.
- The Awful Truth [Leo McCarey, 1937] # The best. Without a doubt. Okay maybe a little doubt. In any case, there are few movies as fun and smart at the same time. Never hurts to see it with an appreciative crowd and two great friends, either.